It’s Draft Day. No this ain’t a song and it won’t feel like that for a few Raiders on the chopping block or people who wanted to attend the event.
The Vegas Raiders were supposed to be the hometown favorites today. This draft was their official introduction to the city.
COVID-19 took all that away and now we watch as the event will be a more vintage fantasy draft like everything else that happens over zoom these days.
The spectacle is set for totally different reasons. We will see GMs flexing with ergo-dynamics and man caves. Front offices with the best communication and collaboration will thrive in this remote environment while more legacy clubs get exposed. Analytics are gonna be even more important to fill gaps left from less personal connections.
The Silver and Black will make waves through this draft with their five picks in the first three rounds. They are without a second round pick which also makes them a candidate to move back in the draft.
Remember, the Raiders don’t have late round selections either. Again, placing an incentive on why the Raiders should be active on the trade market throughout the Draft.
There are also rumors they could be in play for an edge rusher like Yannick Ngakoue but that remains to be seen. Trading our 19th pick Ngakoue wouldn’t even be bad given this draft class is deep but might not bring an instant spark like Ngakoue would to the Raiders defense. Obviously, it would be better if the Raiders could get him without forfeiting a Round One selection. That should be easier since he doesn’t want to be there but it depends on what other teams are offering.
Who can the Raiders trade Today?
Beyond their draft capital, let’s start at the top with Derek Carr. Moving Carr gets exponentially easier if the Raiders select a quarterback in the first three rounds. It also drops his trade value if the Raiders invest in a rookie quarterback since they already are paying Marcus Mariota a lot of money to be a veteran bridge and high quality backup. The Raiders would be lucky to get a second or third round pick for Carr which is probably why they will hold onto him for another season.
We also can’t forget Gabe Jackson who is the other player remaining from that 2014 Draft Class. Jackson is still a starting caliber guard and he never received his due. However, his contract and injuries make it easier to move on.
Many thought he would have already been a cap casualty. Either way, Raiders will probably try to draft an interior linemen in the middle rounds like they did Jackson. This will give Incognito a mentee and someone to push Jackson or Denzelle Good. At the very least, drafting someone makes it that much easier to dump Jackson for a late found pick.
Then, there’s the holdovers. We’ve heard talks about P.J. Hall on the trade block. How about Arden Key?
Neither player has really lived up to their draft bills or potential. They were supposed to be high risk, high reward picks in their draft. Now, they’re looking more like additional Reggie McKenzie scraps about to be thrown over board at the highest bidder.
Both guys flash occasionally and that should be enough to warrant a fifth, sixth or seventh round pick for either or both. Look at a team who values length on the edges and strength in the interior as trade partners. How about other defenses cut from the Zimmer tree? The Patriots always love making the most of draft busts on the low… how about the Dolphins who employ McKenzie and hold a plethora of picks? All these teams make sense as a draft partner for Key or Hall.
Then, there’s Tyrell Williams and LaMarcus Joyner. Both were big free agency grabs last offseason. Now, their contracts look over priced. Williams and Joyner were both leaned on by their units last year. They flashed at times but other times it was a “you paid this guy that” situations?
You can’t put all the blame on them but they certainly weren’t saviors. My point is, the Raiders probably keep these guys another year due to their investment and the fact that no one is lining up to pay those salaries. Not to mention, Williams should improve with an alpha receiver opposite him. Joyner should improve with a much stronger overall defense around them. Their roles as strong complimentary starters is what earned them these big contracts after all.
Full Seven Round Mock Draft
Obviously, this entire projection gets blown up if the Raiders make one or two trades. Either way, my only intent was to make the Raiders better with every pick. They still need a lot of talent upgrades so finding players who can push for starting jobs sooner than later ensures they pack out their new home stadium.
Round One (12): WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
Whether the Raiders take their QB of the future today or next year, they need to find him a pass catcher. Las Vegas lucked out and found one of the best receivers in the Draft available at 13. This pick gets harder if a top corner is available too.
Either way, you could make a case for Lamb as the most physical receiver in this class. His YAC potential is through the roof. It doesn’t hurt that he comes from one of the top programs in the nation last year too.
Round One (19): LB Patrick Queen, LSU
Again, the Raiders proved last year they will poach the best teams in College as an effort to build a winning culture. This time they grab a defensive playmaker to compliment what they did in free agency by signing two marquee free agents for the other starting roles.
Queen would play weakside backer for the Raiders. Although they signed two coverage backers this offseason, adding Queen might mean they can finally cover tight ends as well as stuff the run.
Round Three (80): S Kyle Dugger, Lenoir-Rhyne
I know it’s tough to imagine Gruden spending two of his three first picks on defense but the Raiders defense is that bad. Yes, they have Abram coming back and signed Damarious Randall to provide depth at corner and safety with Joyner.
There are questions about his competition level but he showed his athleticism and instincts translate at the Senior Bowl. He can play either safety spot as well as special teams early. Still, Dugger is a developmental player with traits to be a real boom for Vegas as they need playmakers on defense.
Round Three (81): QB Jacob Eason, Washington
Eason is a real wild card in this draft. Nonetheless, the Raiders and Gruden get a quarterback with the size, athleticism and arm strength to play on Sundays. He is a decent enough athlete too.
Of course, Eason comes with questions about his ability to handle pressure. That shouldn’t be anything a quarterback guru like Gruden can’t work with, right? We’ve seen him take gambles on QBs with less obvious skill sets.
Round Three (91): OL Rober Hunt, Louisiana
Hunt was the best guard available at this point. He’s a big physical prospect who can develop under whoever the Raiders start at guard as well as push for time immediately due to his size and athleticism. Either way, this would not be a bad pick at all.
Round Four (121): DB Michael Ojemudia, Iowa
Again, the Raiders need versatile and productive players as they continue trying to make that defense competent. Ojemudia is a solid pick up with 6 interceptions since 2018. He still needs to refine his technique and instincts but he offers top end traits that make him worth this selection.
Round Five (160): RB Darrynton Evans, App St.
Finally, running back is a real wild card in this draft. The corps is deep but how they rank and where the position overall ranks in the NFL depends on who you ask. Either way, Evans was highly productive at Appalachian State. He has the size and speed to play all three downs but projects as a change of pace and outside runner initially. That might seem redundant with the what the Raiders already have at the position but Evans would be a nice in-between for Jacobs and Richard. You can also never have enough running backs, especially with Jacobs battling shoulder injuries at the end of the last season.
Ultimately, everything is on the board for today’s NFL Draft. It will be memorable because it is the first remote draft and the first time the Vegas Raiders are officially on the clock. However, it should also go down in history as the draft that finally made the Raiders a contender. Right?